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Broken City - Mark Wahlberg interview

Broken City

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MARK Wahlberg talks about starring in and producing Broken City and some of the challenges he faced in taking it outside of the studio system.

He also talks about the pleasure of working with Russell Crowe, why the Entourage movie is on-track, why he loves working with Michael Bay and more…

Q. What attracted you to Broken City?
Mark Wahlberg: The script. I just loved the script. That’s why everybody wanted to be involved in the movie. We didn’t have the kind of money to pay people their quotes. Brian Tucker is the reason why we’re here today. He wrote it… I think he started writing this script when he was 19-years-old and then when he was 24 it was on the Black List. He’s an extraordinary talent.

Q. What challenges did you face as producer?
Mark Wahlberg: First of all getting somebody to give us money to make an adult themed movie about characters and people. If you’re blowing shit up they’ll give you half a billion dollars but luckily I was able to convince a friend to finance the movie and also to leave us along creatively… because if you were going to do this movie at a studio they’re going to want to make a lot of changes and we wanted to stay true to Brian’s vision. So, it meant just doing it down and dirty but I don’t mind doing that. It made for a great experience. We got a really good cast and a really good crew and everybody cared and felt like they were a part of it and that it was their movie.

Q. I gather you and Russell Crowe dispensed with the rehearsal period and just toe to toe?
Mark Wahlberg: Absolutely. Alan offered it to us, to rehearse or to discuss. But no, the first scene we shot was the confrontation at his home office and it was like a seven page scene and we just dived in and started going. And the great thing about it is… our characters are really trying to one up each other. But we weren’t doing that as actors. I’ve seen many actors come in and it’s like “OK, this is my moment, I’m going to steal this scene” or “steamroll this guy”… I’ve done it myself a couple of times [smiles]… but out of sheer anger. And that was only in The Departed but that’s a long story, so I won’t go into it. But no, for the better of the movie we were like… in between takes we’d discuss why it was so key and why the movie really hinged on that particular moment. But it’s nice to see a guy who comes in as prepared as me. He’s just a pro. Between the debate scene and the scenes with me, he probably had more dialogue than most people have in a whole movie and then shot all those scenes in three weeks. He just came in and knocked it out of the park.

Q. Billy is an outsider trying to get into the establishing. Did you see a connection with your career? You were very much not from Hollywood stock? At what point would you say you’d made it?
Mark Wahlberg: No, I still don’t feel like I’m ‘in the club’. It’s like whenever I go to the awards shows and stuff. I’m cool with everybody that I’ve worked with. I just kind of have that same blue collar attitude… you know, really appreciative of the opportunities that I have and I work hard and I don’t want to do anything to mess it up. But at some point, somebody is going to tap me on the shoulder and say: “Hey, it’s time to go now.” So, I try not to ruffle any feathers and, again, having that enormous sense of appreciation that I even get to do what I do. And I’m always kind of looking… I’m either in the present or I’m looking to the future. I don’t spend too much time dwelling on the past or what I’ve had to do to get here or when I felt like I’ve kind of arrived. There have been moments but I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on them. I just think: “OK, how do I get better at what I do?” And try and strengthen my position so I can make better movies and better television and employ people to do their thing and show their talents.

Broken City

Q. You’re doing a lot of producing. Do you get a different kind of satisfaction from doing that?
Mark Wahlberg: Absolutely. But it’s a kind of go between, especially making movies, if you’re producing a movie you’re involved in every aspect of the movie and that can be daunting and then going and doing a movie where you’re just an actor for hire, and you can kind of sit back and giggle where you can see somebody sitting over there wasting time and wasting money. It’s not your responsibility to sort out a problem. If you’ve got four days off, you don’t have to still go to the set and be there from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. But then I want to get back in there and go through all the stuff that is going on behind the scenes that you don’t want to know about as an actor.

Q. Will you direct one day?
Mark Wahlberg: At some point maybe. It’s a matter of finding the right story that I feel compelled to tell. But it’s a very time consuming job to have. You’ve got to carve out a good 16 months to two years out of your life to just focus on that particular project. With producing, I always get to kind of juggle, mostly on the phone, or take meetings and sort out stuff. I can multi-task and do 10 or 15 things. But directing a movie is pretty time consuming.

Q. I liked the relationship you had with your assistant in the film. Was it refreshing to have a platonic relationship like that in a film?
Mark Wahlberg: Yeah, but there were just the debates of… the one relationship that he has, that he’s involved with, is obviously doomed from the very beginning because that relationship was born from a tragedy, not from a good, happy, pure place. It’s the classic guy who is going out with the girl who is out of his league and she’s going in one direction and he’s going in the other and he’s got this perfect girl there, who is kind of like “pay attention to me”. And Alona [Tal] did a great job. The only time we were being pushed by the people who were financing the movie was when it came to casting, and especially those parts. They wanted names and they wanted the next hot starlet to get magazine covers when the movie was coming out.

So, we saw everybody but she just kept coming in and she was feisty and playful and confident and she just did a good job. So, we kept saying ‘OK’, but they kept going ‘but see so and so and so…’ So, we’d literally sit in a room and read every scene out loud, and we’d try things and we’d play things, and make suggestions and give notes, and she just won the part. I think Natalie Martinez did the same thing. There were other people that were really front-runners and she came in really late in the game and she didn’t think she would get the part, so she just kind of went in and winged it and it was just different – she had a confidence about her. A lot of people were putting so much… and they were so tense. It’s hard. I was never good in auditions, so I try to be as helpful as I possibly can to everybody who comes in the room because I feel their pain. You want that job and it’s a tough thing. But they both came in and earned the parts.

Broken City

Q. So, what was your worst audition? And are you past that stage completely now? Is there never a time where you have to audition now?
Mark Wahlberg: I haven’t auditioned in a while but always when I have meetings with directors… I mean I’m always crossing my toes or something but I’ll always say: “If you want me to read, I don’t mind.” Obviously, I do [smiles] but I throw that out there because we’re talking about a project. Obviously, I have a body of work out there that they’ve seen and they use that as a reference. But if it’s something different and something that they may not necessarily see me in, I always offer that up. But hoping that they won’t take me up on the offer.

Q. Can I ask about the Entourage movie? Where are you with that?
Mark Wahlberg: The script is done. The green-light has been given by Warner Bros and we’ll start shooting probably around the summer.

Q. Wasn’t the story finished?
Mark Wahlberg: It’s never finished!

Q. Will it be all the same faces?
Mark Wahlberg: Yes, the main faces. We’re going to get back to the guys being the guys. We never wanted it to end but it got tricky, probably more on the deal side than anything. But Sex & The City did a great job with the first movie and we’ve always felt that people have complained that the episodes were too short, so we always knew it could make for a good movie and there is certainly a financial upside to making a good movie. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a second movie and not screw it up like Sex & The City. It’s tough. But I think if we just get back to what people really loved about the show, which is the guys…. I mean, over the years they developed great relationships with female characters that were really strong and powerful, but it was essentially about the guys and so we’re kind of getting back to that. I think it’ll be great… everybody is excited about it. Everywhere I go people always say: “Why isn’t Entourage coming back?” So, if we don’t do it bad, then I think we’ll be OK.

Q. Might you be in it?
Mark Wahlberg: They’ve written a cameo for me, playing myself as a television producer and somebody is trying to get a job from me. But if they want me to do it, of course I’d do it in a second.

Q. Do you know who is going to win the Oscars this year?
Mark Wahlberg: Yes I do. No, I don’t know for sure but I think I do. I think there’s a 110% chance that Daniel Day-Lewis will win. I think Argo will win Best Picture. I think Ben Affleck not being nominated for director has now turned into a blessing because everybody is outraged that he wasn’t nominated as a director, so now it’s just going to win everything – and I think it’s a great movie too. But personally I loved Life of Pi. Maybe it was because I spent four months working opposite an imaginary teddy bear and this kid was with there with his tiger… I thought his performance was spectacular. I mean, the first time out making a movie and just working opposite a CGI animal. I thought ‘wow’! It took me 30-odd movies to be confident enough to pull that off. I loved Lincoln. I haven’t seen Les Miserables but I’ve been asked by almost everybody if I have… obviously Russell Crowe is in it, so I know there’s something going on there. So, I’m going to see it this week. I actually have a screener at my house. So, I’m going to watch that.

Broken City

Q. Will you call him afterwards?
Mark Wahlberg: It depends on what I see! But I’m excited to see Seth McFarlane hosting. I think it’s a pretty ballsy move by the Academy to hire a guy who doesn’t water it down for anybody. And I mean literally anybody. I was being honoured by a homeless Catholic women and children’s centre in California and the guy who was running the event suggested Seth. I said: “Are you crazy? This thing is for a bunch of priests and nuns.” But he said: “No, no, I saw him at this other event.” So, I said: “Well, you ask him. I’m not going to ask him.” Seth is the greatest guy.. If you ask him to do anything he’ll do it for you. He’s very generous with his time and everything else. But I still thought it wasn’t going to be good. And of course he roasted everybody – priests, nuns, he didn’t give a shit. Thankfully, my parish priest Father O’Ryan came up and gave him a couple of zingers right back, which was good, and he had a great sense of humour about all of it. But Seth’s not going to tone it down for anybody at the Oscars and Ted and I certainly aren’t. We’ve got a couple of great bits that we’re doing and I’m excited to see it.

Q. How would you summarise the whole Michael Bay experience of Pain & Gain?
Mark Wahlberg: Awesome. Awesome. I think, to me, he’s the most efficient director that I’ve ever worked with. He’s an absolute machine and we had such a wonderful experience working together. The movie is fantastic. He never wants me to talk about it. It’s like his small baby movie but I think the movie is up there with any of the great movies that I have been a part of. I’m very proud of it and we had such a great working relationship together… every day was like: “Well, what about this?” Or: “What about that?” I was just so into playing that part and the direction and the ideas that he came up with for me. I wasn’t too familiar with all hi movies. But he’s such a funny guy and he’s so good with comedy. So, then he just kind of pulled me aside one day and goes: “Hey, do you want to do another movie?” And I said: “Hell yeah, why not? Let’s go!”

And then he told me what it was… Transformers and what he wanted to do and how he wanted to make it different and I was like: “Let’s go. I’m up for it.” I’m excited about it. It’s the only time I’ve decided to do a movie that my kids are excited about. They want to see it and they want to be in it and hopefully my wife will let them watch it… because one of them, my four-year-old, screamed ‘shit’ the other day when his brother knocked his football out of his hand. He was like: “Shit!” I almost laughed… thankfully, I was able to hold it in. But I said: “Get over here now!” And I said: “If you say that again I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap. Where did you learn that? Where did you hear that?” And he whispered: “Transformers!” And then I told my wife and she took the DVDs away. So, hopefully they’ll get to see the new one.

Read our review of Broken City